Review: Blueprint 20 @ The Hydra
Once again on a sunny August Bank holiday, The Hydra invited Blueprint to return to Studio Spaces. However this year, beyond all doubt, it was a special occasion, marking the 20th anniversary of a very British Techno institution. Of course they rolled out the big guns. Jeff Mills, Ben Klock, DVS1, all sturdy markers of what was set to be a rollicking night. A swollen belly of a line-up, however, that’s not to say that any reveller left unsatisfied. There was so much on offer that regardless of where in the venue you were, you were always positioned well enough to be in earshot of top quality techno.
With enough warning from the RA comments feed, The Hydra were well aware of the “issues” most people had at last years’ event. Heat, overcrowding, scheduling were all mentioned and noted. However, having also been present at the 2015 edition, my fondest memory was stomping about to Jeff at 7am in the morning with my t-shirt around my head like a techno turban. (Not one for the forums.) Nevertheless, having taken on the feedback, this year the Hydra certainly ran a smoother operation than before. A couple of well-timed clashes eased the numbers in both rooms and the new extraction units did a solid job of keeping the temperature at a bearable level.
My introduction to the evening was being able to catch the second half of Lakker in the Warehouse. Live techno at its finest, Lakker managed to encapsulate a balanced level of tension and anticipation through a wonderful curation of stems; a feat that left us happily waxing lyrical about it till sunrise.
Label boss James Ruskin was next up, whilst Broken English Club (Oliver Ho) was the second live performance of the night in the smaller Black Studio. For Ho especially, this night, and the lead up to it, certainly provided an elevated showcase of his undeniable talents. Having recorded a pre-mix for the night, there was certainly a good crowd for the majority of his set. Ho’s sound was a kind of dubbed out, techno tribalism; a change of pace from most of the other DJs during the night, the bass bubbled low, ushering the rave to a steady sway.
In the other room, Ruskin was putting on a brilliant display of brinkmanship, controlling the pace in the knowledge that DVS1 and Mills were both set to follow. However, at around 3.30m, almost as if to say “it’s my party”, he flipped the script and dropped the room into peak time. With these types of nights, and their conveyor belt of headliners, it was good to see the honcho, Ruskin, take the lead. It was quite simply a masterclass, pulling together a wide range of electronic threads and thrashing it out in a rumbling and frantic 4/4. A moment that drew a big reaction was Ruskin easing Rumah and Progression’s ‘Speak & Spell’, into the instantly recognisable ‘Work that Mutha’ by Steve Poindexter.
Berghain resident, DVS1was the next to take the controls. His set was a lot more of a mixed bag, almost as if Ruskin had thrown him a hot potato. Well known for the speed of his sets, he quickly clicked into gear, however, his set lacked the character of what had gone before. By his high standards there were some shakey moments, nevertheless, Khutoretsky used his 2 hours wisely, craftily shifting the pace and sound from the jacking bass of the UK; to the lo-fi kick of Detroit; rolling out the carpet for Jeff ‘The Wizard’ Mills.
Jeff started with a very strange selection, almost cutting the vibe off by the nose with an obscure disco track. Probably in order to wipe the slate clean and ease the relentless pace at which the night was hurtling, Mills performed a dancefloor detox, freeing and loosening limbs before resuming with him at the fore. His 909 precariously balanced above the standard set up, he began to build.
At the same time and as the best example of the depth of the line-up Ben Klock was just taking over from Regis in the Black Studio. By this time the heat was starting to play a part and Klock’s selection seemed to veer ever so slightly on the formulaic side. And with the crowd having already been treated to a wealth of brilliant sounds, the room suddenly began to feel a little flat. Having only recently landed from a set at Dimensions and despite it being well documented that he plays over 100 gigs a year, Klock seemed a little fatigued and as such didn’t quite live up to the huge expectations he’s set out for himself over the past couple of decades.
Hard, diverse, relentless and more than just a little bit sweaty, The Hydra and Blueprint once again put on a dance of epic proportions for the Bank Holiday. A fitting 20th celebration for Blueprint Records with Ruskin, suitably being the stand out – but then again, when it’s your birthday, you’re allowed to take the limelight.
Photography: Jake Davis